Supporting Veterans on College Campuses.
As far as support services go for veterans on college campuses, it doesn’t get much more personal than VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC), run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the VA, the program aims to help veterans, servicemembers and their qualified dependents succeed and thrive through a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance and counseling, leading to the completion of their education and preparing them to enter the labor market in viable careers. In the six years since its inception, the VSOC program has grown impressively and helped veterans with the sometimes confusing and overwhelming task of figuring out their VA benefits. VetSuccess on Campus began as a pilot program in 2009 at the University of South Florida, and then expanded to 32 schools by the end of fiscal year 2012. In FY13, the VSOC program expanded again to an additional 62 campuses, bringing the total number of VSOC sites to 94. The program provides for a VA employee, specifically a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC), to occupy office space at each school. These VRCs are called VetSuccess on Campus counselors, and their role is to work face to face with veteran and qualified students—to help them as they make career transitions and to ensure that they are receiving the full VA benefit to which they are entitled. A VA vet center outreach coordinator is also provided, and co-located on many campuses, to provide peer-to-peer counseling and referral services. The Department of Veterans Affairs explained the work of VetSuccess on Campus in terms of partnerships with both the students and the universities. According to VA representatives, “Through the VSOC program, VA is strengthening partnerships with institutions of higher learning and creating opportunities to help veterans achieve success by providing outreach and transition services during their transition from military to college life. VSOC counselors ensure that veterans receive the support and assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals. Because VSOC counselors are easily accessible on campus, they help resolve any problems that could potentially interfere with a veterans educational program, including assisting with disability accommodations.” This accessibility of VetSuccess on Campus counselors, and their ability to connect with students in person to review their specific situations, is proving enormously helpful. Troy Rundle, VSOC counselor at Arizona State University, said, “Through the VSOC program, the counselors are able to offer the school and student veteran a stronger knowledge base for VA benefits. The counselor can support the veteran in understanding which of their available benefits is going to work best for them, and get them going in the right direction if they have not ever looked into what they have available.” Having access to the various VA databases is a tremendous resource. For a student who comes in not knowing what benefits they may be eligible for, the counselor is able to look for that information. VSOC counselor Anna Sabina-Stratton at the University of Nebraska at Omaha added, “The [counselor] is able to lay out all of the components of each program and assist the veteran in making a benefit decision that best meets the requirements of his/her needs at any time. They can assist with community resource referrals and follow up personally to ensure that the assistance was appropriate.” Another way that VSOC is helping veteran and qualified students is through outreach events and workshops. According to Natacia Cordle, VSOC counselor at San Diego State University, “VSOC has conducted dozens of informational VA benefits workshops and outreach events for active duty servicemembers and students transferring in from community colleges. These workshops and outreach events have greatly reduced the gap of information that occurs when transitioning from one situation to another. This has been especially important for individuals transitioning from active duty who are often not fully aware of all eligible benefits and services, including free health care. This service has decreased the amount of potential missed benefits and opportunities for veterans.” The services available to eligible students through the VetSuccess on Campus program create an advantage for those students if they attend a participating school, explained Jack Kammerer, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment division. “VSOC counselors are easily accessible on campus, which helps resolve problems as early as possible before potentially interfering with a veteran’s educational program,” Kammerer said. “This may also include assisting with disability accommodations on campus. Having VSOC counselors available directly on campus is more convenient for student veterans, especially those who do not live near other Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment offices. If needed, VSOC counselors can also provide referrals for health services through VA medical centers, community-based outpatient clinics or vet centers. This is a service that cannot be provided by school employees, which is a disadvantage of sites without a VA employee on campus. Kammerer explained that students who are eligible for counseling include “transitioning servicemembers who are within six months prior to discharge from active duty, veterans within one year after discharge from active duty and any student veterans or their qualified dependents who are eligible for and have entitlement to VA educational assistance under the Post-9/11, Montgomery or Selected Reserve GI Bills, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Reserve Educational Assistance Program, or the Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.” For a complete list of schools that participate in VetSuccess on Campus and offer VSOC counselors, visit www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/vsoc.asp.
Last modified on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 19:42
- Issue: 12
- Volume: 2